Cycling week 48
Burnout compelled cycling week to be brief. Still, it was another week of – and I can't believe this – riding a bike around.
The morning ride. A blackbird sat on the road for ages, watching me approach. I asked it what it was doing and it flew off, thankfully.
Raroa was surging with impatience so I put my head down and tried to focus on my front wheel and little patch of road whirring away.
Rode home after work in the rain, in a T-shirt and without gloves or headband – one of those rides where you set off on auto-pilot, slack-jawed. I watched the rain running across my bare arms and thought, ‘I could stop and do something about this,’ but the effort of stopping felt greater than the effort of carrying on.
Rode to work. It was grey and cold again. A driver tried to let me in at an intersection, but it was one of those strange courtesies, where to take the driver up on the offer would mean holding up a long line of traffic as I went uphill and presumably enraging a whole bunch of drivers, so I waved them on. Then felt guilty for refusing the kindness.
After work I rode down into town to an event, then rode home just before it got properly dark. The red light runners were out, playing their games of nearly causing fatal accidents. My spare rear light came into its own when the main one died. After the ruckus of the event it was good to be slogging along in the twilight, thinking about dinner.
Hills. The worst thing about a hill is that once you start climbing it, you have to carry on climbing it. That is a very basic hill observation. But still, I grapple with it over and over again – this business of having to keep going when everything in your body is saying, ‘This is just really unpleasant.’ But the hill has you in a headlock. Some days I choose to suffer; some days I choose to encourage myself through it like a motivational speaker in a badly fitting suit saying words that mean nothing but that sound like something; some days I choose to cry, as if I’m in the last stage of the Tour de France rather than just getting up a minor ascent to get home; some days I like the hill and feel grateful that there’s no other way to get to the end.
Bright sunshine all of a sudden. Two rides, both difficult, all of my fitness vanished and my focus simply on getting through.
Should you carry on riding your bike when you’ve got a cold, or you’re recovering from one, or you’re just generally feeling like a dried-out sponge with eyes? It depends. Usually the decision I arrive at, for better or worse, is: pedal on, you big baby. But walking or getting the bus would’ve been the sensible thing for today.
Small triumph: Pumped up my tyres and cleaned and re-greased my chain after two weeks of putting it off.
Small failure: Went into the bike shop to get electrolyte tablets but they didn’t have any. The man tried to persuade me to buy a different sort, but I couldn’t face change.
The morning ride. Summery. Getting up the hill was a struggle. Felt like riding through raw dough. Made mental note to get blood test. Yelled ‘Shithead’ at a car that passed too closely, and immediately regretted it and promised myself that was the last time I would yell that. A large truck passed closely and I very nearly yelled it again but managed to yell something else terrible.
At lunchtime I trudged home, and even though it was a beautiful day and the road was relatively quiet I could not wait for this ride to be over.
I’ve now entered the danger zone of the year, where I spend more time at home reading manuscripts, which tends to mean fewer bike rides, or bike rides at irregular times, or some days ignoring the bike altogether. Time becomes a bit amorphous without the bookending of the bike ride. My hope is that during this time I’ll be able to do a few ‘reset’ rides – rides that are slow, and mainly about getting air into your lungs and sun on your face, and also about looking at birds and trees and about making plenty of stops to drink from your water bottle. A reset ride just means any ride where you do whatever you want along the way.
Cycling Week ground to a halt to conserve energy, so there were no rides today at all, and I didn’t feel too guilty about it.
I wish I had a good sentence to sum up this week of very average and less than average rides. But no! Sometimes you just need to get to the end of the ride so that you can make a sandwich and then do something else.